Beyond the Pale

Modern Vintage: Wrap’s Victorian-esque Delights
September 19, 2010, 8:00 pm
Filed under: Autumn, Fall, Fashion, Fripperies, Modern Nostalgic, Modern Victorian

Ever since their latest brochure arrived, I’ve been obsessing over Wrap’s Autumn collection. Every time I turn the page, I find a new item to lust after – they really have outdone themselves!

Silk Empire-Line Dress

Their silk empire-line dress strikes just the right note of grown-up whimsicality. I would have one of each colour and wear them with my omnipresent biker boots (or, I suppose, Victorian button boots to go with our theme).

Silk Velvet Victorian Style Dress

The above dress also caused palpitations in my dear friend Melanie (writer of the Madame Guillotine blog and brilliant historical novelist to boot). I mean, honestly – a silk velvet dress styled with fingerless gloves and boots for instant [what we like to call] ‘Victorian prostitute chic’. What’s not to like? Both colours are gorgeous, but smoky grey shall forever win my heart.

Embellished Silk Velvet Jacket

Love everything about this outfit. Although I actually (again) prefer the smoky grey option, the mix of colours is winning me over, here. I really like the sprinkling of sequins on this jacket – particularly as they’re matte, so not too ritzy-glitzy to team with jeans, should you wish. And I would.

Weave Detail Silk Dress

The dress worn under the jacket is this one… and I want every single option. Again. Yes, I’m greedy; but if forced at gunpoint to choose (an unlikely situation), I would plump for the aubergine. One of my favourites from the whole collection – I feel this would work especially well on those of us blessed with opulent bosoms and chunky arms…

Studded Merino Cardigan

Another combination I covet all examples of – silk, merino, stud and frills: a marriage made in my personal heaven. The cardigan manages to be both cosy and sexy (a rare pairing) and the top (shown below) is the perfect length and reminds me of my grunge days. In a good way. 🙂

Silk Georgette Frill Trim Top

These have to be my highlights from Wrap’s Autumn collection, but it’s simply bursting with wearable pieces with something special about them. Go and feast your eyes (and sign up for email alerts – their sales are amazing, too!)



Whimsical Brooches & Not Growing Up
November 28, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Accessories, Autumn, Brooches, Etsy, Fall, Fashion, Fripperies, Trinkets

Lately, I find myself hankering after items I used to scoff at and – on occasion – loathe with a passion. Could it be, Gentle Reader, that I am (at the age of 30 cough cough) growing up?

Dear LORD, I do hope not, otherwise I’ll freak out and have a terribly embarrassing encounter with experimental hair dye and inappropriate skirt lengths. Again.

It is more likely (and palatable to your author) that I am finally getting around to embracing things that other people have been already been wearing and loving for decades.

Hence: brooches. I do not own a brooch. My jewellery box[es] are bereft of anything even resembling a brooch, and I feel this must soon be rectified.

I am looking at over-familiar jackets and seeing a well-placed brooch would dress them up no end. I am seeing whimsical brooch-shaped gaps on far-too-respectable cardigans and bags. Even skirts could benefit…

Direct links to items shown, left-to-right:

First Row: 1) HeliS, 2) Seesong, 3) Seesong (Yes, two Seesong’s, but I couldn’t resist!)

Second Row: 1) Alexandra Anderson, 2) Le Collezione 3) Sustalux

Third Row: 1) Tijusai 2) Nikita Jade 3) Miss Gaylee

Fourth Row: 1) Floremark Shop 2) Made With Love By Hannah 3) Ananya

And by the way, just how adorable is the little mouse brooch in the first row? He looks like he’s done something terribly wrong and only just realised – or forgotten something vital from his shopping list. Two situations I am equally familiar with!

Mouse Brooch by HeliS, $16

What a relief to be back having been without a power cable for my PowerBook for an absolute age. Well, a few days, but it seemed like forever! *grumbles about Mac power cables for some time*

Until next time, dearhearts

Miss Nightingale


Dress-down Day Sparkle: How Not to Look Mad
November 14, 2009, 12:25 am
Filed under: Accessories, Autumn, Etsy, Fall, Fashion, Shoes, Shopping, Vintage

There was a time when any self-respecting young gal about town knew she must leave off any hint of sparkle & glam until the cocktail hour approached. Anyone gadding about in sequins & spangles before the sun went down was to be viewed with a raised eyebrow: most likely a dirty stop-out who had woken still-drunk in a ditch, dressed in the previous night’s attire.

Sequin Jacket, from 23stien - $40

Sequin Jacket, from 23stien - $40

Nowadays, it is quite acceptable for even the most virtuous of ladies to be seen at any hour of the day in beads and bobby-dazzlers, though some people feel quite faint – still – at the very glint of a sequin. This is just silly – the trick is to dress down the sparkle with items that just scream I Don’t Really Care: jeans, obviously, but toughen it all up with leather cuffs, vintage boots or other bold accessories.

Dress-down SparkleDress-down Sparkle2

Direct links to items shown, left-to-right:

1st Row: 1) Mod Human, 2) Dirty Darling, 3) Bohemiennes

2nd Row: 1) Red Kat Black 23, 2) Two Altered Visions, 3) Recycle Reuse Revive

3rd Row: 1) Tap Shoes, 2) Lolita Vintage, 3) Miss B’s

4th Row: 1) Virtual Exchanges, 2) Belleness, 3) Simple Thrift

This is an excellent idea of how to re-use that sequined blazer you’re wearing to the Christmas do, or that vintage, ‘Jackie O’ style beaded cardi you haven’t worn yet for fear of looking too twee.

vintage BLACK ROSE sweater

Vintage Black Rose Sweater, from No Carnations - $25

Oversized mannish watches and your oldest, most-loved Converse (or your preferred brand of Leisure Shoe!) also work really well and can dress down just about any embellished item of clothing when paired with your old jeans, some leggings and a short skirt or thrown over That Comfy Favourite Jersey Dress That Goes With Everything.

double t-shirt dress - black MEDIUM

Double t-shirt Dress by Take Off Your Clothes - $80

I have about 10 such dresses, all in black, which sort of defeats the purpose. Doesn’t stop me wanting the one above as well…

Let’s face it, dear hearts: I am never going to have a capsule wardrobe. I can never be one of those people who can say – with a completely straight face – “Just add a scarf, twist up your hair and you can go straight from a 14-hour day at work to the Metropolitan Ball!” The people who tell you these things are liars, darlings. ;p But I suppose one should also accrue comfortable day/casual dresses in other colors, too…

Cranberry Crow Dress

Cranberry Crow Dress by Devil May Care - $28

As for makeup, well either a ‘natural’, ‘no makeup makeup’ look (which, as we know, takes far longer in reality to achieve than slapping a bit of slap on) or a metric tonne of eyeliner would work equally well.

I’d always plump for the metric tonne of eyeliner, but that’s just me.

I don’t believe I have left the house without eyeliner since I was about 13! The very thought horrifies me.

Until later, my chuckie-eggs,

Miss Nightingale


Hounds of the Morrigan: Favourite Books & Cosy Nooks

Hounds of the Morrigan, by the now sadly departed Pat O’Shea, was 10 years in the writing. It can be classed as a children’s book, but I have been reading it on and off since I was 11 years old, and it still remains one of my favourite books in the whole world. Such imagination, dark humour & a great cast of characters – I just had to honour it with a blog post and – of course – a selection of goodies inspired by fond memories of the novel itself…

Hounds of the Morrigan 1Hounds of the Morrigan 2

Direct links to items shown, left to right:

1st Row – 1) Levan’s Photography, 2) Earthworks Journals, 3) Maclancy

2nd Row – 1) C.D. Childs, 2) Madrin Photography, 3) Propellers

3rd Row – 1) Nesrin Dugan, 2) Tuscany Studios, 3) Shop Greyhounds

4th Row – 1) Pern Circlets, 2) Short Girl Designs, 3) Lee Imagery

The story is the age old battle of Good v Evil, in the same rich vein as Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence; but it’s really the cast of characters and the adventures they have together that always brings me back to the world Pat O’Shea created.

Hounds of the Morrigan

I always, always wished for another book from her, a continuation of the story, the chance to meet old friends. There is a tantalising glimpse of what might have been in her obituary, printed in The Guardian newspaper:

The few brilliant chapters of the unfinished sequel are almost worth publishing alone: a Christmas card scene, candelit shop windows, carol singers and a robin… and into this cheerful scene rides the great Irish witch the Morrigan with her wild sisters, bringing mayhem and magic and mischief.

*sigh* How selfish it is of us voracious readers to wish someone alive again merely so they could finish/begin a sequel. It’s all a bit Kathy Bates in Misery for words, but I do sort of understand that constant, gnawing wish for more.

Hounds of the Morrigan cover 3

Of course unfinished sequels always hold a power that a published book can never have (much as we mourn the loss of new songs from our favourite recording artists who died too young, or the films we’ll never see of actors who went before their time).

Hounds of the Morrigan cover 4It’s an aching void always begging to be filled with new material from rambunctious upstarts or delving into the classics to see from whence your favourite sprang… but you have to get over it each time the craving begins, or that dreadful self-pitying kind of mourning for what might have been starts to spread, like little spores of black mould in a damp bathroom.

Relish the tangible, that’s the cure!

Hounds of the Morrigan Cover 2

With this in mind, I feel I must very soon curl up in a cosy nook…

Cosy Reading Corner

Cosy Reading Corner by Homes and Gardens

…wearing something scrumptiously soft & a good pair of thick bed socks…

1940's Jaeger Bed Socks - Free Printable Pattern by V&A

1940's Jaeger Bed Socks - Free Printable Pattern by V&A

…heaped with blankets and cushions, drinking hot chocolate [possibly with a slug of something wicked in it] and reading The Hounds of the Morrigan for the umpteenth time!

Hot Chocolate

Oh, and don’t get me started on Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – another of my all-time favourites which I hold to my bosom and treasure like a rare jewel. And OH MY GOD – HOW did I not know that she’s written a [proper] sequel?! Ordered it immediately, of course. I may return to this to wax lyrical at length…

Ah, Howl, my first literary crush.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Whatever your favourite cosy read is, I hope you have time to snuggle up with it, soon. I truly believe it’s balm for the soul, and most especially at this time of year, don’t you think?

Girl Reading by Fragonard

Girl Reading by Fragonard

Do share with me your favourite cosy reads – or the books you keep coming back to throughout the years – I’d be fascinated to know!

Autumn Fashion: Relishing the Cosy
November 5, 2009, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Autumn, Etsy, Fall, Fashion, Fripperies, Trinkets

We are – in the UK, anyway – in the very heart of that golden period. That time between being really quite pleased to be donning coats and snuggling in scarves, and the moment we are all bored of it and begin moaning at how terribly cold it is “…and we never had a proper summer to speak of.”

Well, I say we should make the most of this golden period of Autumn. I find wrapping up in cosy knits and swathing myself in long scarves to be positively delightful, and I wont have a word said against it! So there.

In praise of all things to snuggle-up in, then, may I present my considered selection of cosiness. As usual, I’ve used Etsy’s Poster Sketch tool for laying out my choices…

CosyCosy 2

Direct links to items shown, left-to-right:

1st row: 1) Adventures of JR, 2) Handy Little Me, 3) Big Yellow Taxi Vintage

2nd row: 1) Emma Sommerfield, 2) Jewel of the Lion, 3) Le Muse

3rd row: 1) YY Studio, 2) Teton Cocoa Company, 3) Grazim

4th row: 1) Iveta67, 2) Beautiful Soaps, 3) Mrs Woo Woo

I see that Emma Sommerfield’s 40’s style hand-knitted cardigan has already sold, but she does re-do certain styles from time to time, I believe. Worth asking if you desire that particular style as much as I do! She’s on holiday at the moment, but as with all Etsy sellers, you can request to be sent an automatic email when the seller returns to their shop.

I must also mention Le Muse and show you some more of the beautiful designs available in their shop. I just adore this label – the sheer simplicity yet subtle sexiness of the clothes is incredibly appealing.

Oh, how I want one of everything, and to cavort about in the grass with a pitcher of milk, as pictured below.

Forest Muse for Cozy Days by Le Muse, $69

Forest Muse for Cozy Days by Le Muse, $69

Um. Perhaps with another layer on underneath the dress on frostier days? Showing my age! People under 30 seem to eschew layers or, y’know, a coat nowadays. Obviously made of hardier stuff than I, your fragile author…

BlackMuse for Cold Days by Le Muse, $79

BlackMuse for Cold Days by Le Muse, $79

I am very much in favour of the re-emergence of The Shoulder, here. I am fond of my shoulders and they got many outings in the 80’s, but have pretty much remained hidden since then. There is something cheekily sexy about a shoulder peeking out, non?

Of course this also means the re-emergence of the strapless bra, in my case. Lucky those of you who may do without, rejoice, for the strapless bra is a tale of woe worthy of several chapters.

LeMuse for the Cozy Days by Le Muse, $59

LeMuse for the Cozy Days by Le Muse, $59

Here are some that didn’t quite fit into my layout, but which I also love, and these seem to also exude that air of bliss that only comes with being slightly cold, wrapping up warm and drinking cocoa by the fire after a kick through the leaves.

Red Legwarmers/Spats by Wigglin Wasabi, $18

Red Legwarmers/Spats by Wigglin Wasabi, $18

Winter Warmth Gift Basket by JM Creative, $30

Winter Warmth Gift Basket by JM Creative, $30

Peach Melba Slippers by Screaming CheeToes, $14

Peach Melba Slippers by Screaming CheeToes, $14

Pecan Pie Candle by gelDlights, $14

Pecan Pie Candle by gelDlights, $14

Yours blissfully & toasting my tootsies (that’s ‘toes’ for anyone not familiar with the expression, who may have been imagining all sorts of licentious behaviour!)

Miss Nightingale

What to Wear Now: Liberty Prints & Biker Boots
October 7, 2009, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Accessories, Autumn, Boots, Etsy, Fall, Fashion, Fripperies, Necklaces, Trinkets

Every morning is a battle in my wardrobe: what the HELL to wear when – in my little spot in the Garden of England – the Autumn weather currently goes something like this: Misty raining raining raining SUNNY HOT stormy raining WARM blustery COLD misty drizzle mizzle WINDY cold warm raining raining… and all within a single day!

Photo by Himynameisbalthazar

Photo by Himynameisbalthazar

I actually love that kind of jumbled-up weather (good job, living in the UK!) but it can make dressing appropriately a little tricky. The answer is, just as your mother told you, to layer. You can still wear a floaty summer dress, but team it with leggings or thick tights underneath, perhaps even a VEST. Yes, your mother was right about that, too. Or a long sleeved t-shirt for those that wouldn’t countenance the merest vestige of a vest.

Pair up a pretty Liberty print number with a boxy velvet jacket or, to toughen up the whole ensemble and for one of my favourite looks ever: ditzy florals with a leather jacket (even an oversized or man’s jacket) and biker boots. It says effortlessly sexy at just about any age, I think (given the correct proportions) and if it gets a little steamy, take the jacket off. Pile on the mis-matched scarves & floral accessories, too, to cheer up a dull day!

Liberty & Leather 1Liberty & Leather 2

Direct Links to Items Shown, Left to Right…

First Row: 1) Sweetnellie, 2) Hen and Chick, 3) Sleepy King

Second Row: 1) Artifactory, 2) Groovin Tuesday, 3) Scarlet Ribbons UK

Third Row: 1) Clever Nettle, 2) Alice Caroline, 3) M Holland

Fourth Row: 1) Vintage Jones, 2) Mavis and Frank, 3) Hellcat Vintage

Liberty prints are forever the queen of florals and have been going strong since the actual Mister Liberty – Arthur, to his pals – began creating the iconic patterned fabrics in London’s Regent Street in 1875. Each season, new fabric designs are produced for the Liberty collection, the designers “…drawing inspiration from art, architecture, lifestyle, personal experiences and the extensive Liberty archive.”

By the way, forgive a gal the whimsy, but I just had to use these cutely aloof dolls/soft toys as the faces of this ‘look book’ selection. I am not generally a fan of dolls and gave up my soft toys some time ago, but these ones have such character I want to adopt them all!

Liesel by Sweetnellie $24

Liesel by Sweetnellie: $24

Liesel is a portable little snoot, 7.5 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide.

Her head is crocheted from a blend of wool and mohair and the front of her frock is a Liberty of London, cotton lawn.

She has two button eyes, accented with tiny embroidered eyebrows and a wool beret atop her head.

Liesel is finished with a wool felt backing, a heartfelt sentiment and a bit of Midori ribbon around her neck.

(Due to the small bits, Liesel is not recommended for young children).

Cutie Pie by Hen and Chick: $29

Cutie Pie by Hen and Chick: $29

This little lady is looking for a good friend. She loves to tend her flowers. She likes to swing really high on the swings. And most of all she likes to make a fort with chairs and blankets. Her little green pea coat is fully removable, fastens with a snap, and keeps her warm while crunching through leaves.

This doll is made with new and recycled fabrics. She is 19 inches tall and she has orange felt hair, green eyes and black painted shoes. She has a cute green dress with purple and orange flowers, and purple tights. She is safe and appropriate for all ages. Her beautiful face is hand painted with a pensive and kind expression. She is one of a kind and bound to be a devoted friend.

Bon Bon the Blushing Squirrel by Sleepy King: $23

Bon Bon the Blushing Squirrel by Sleepy King: $23

Instead of playing with the other squirrels in the giant oak tree, Bon Bon spends most of her time baking acorn pies and doing crossword puzzles.

Measures approx 9 inches high.

This item is made to order especially for you! Please allow 3-5 days for completion and shipping.

Bon Bon is made from clean recycled tweed wool (wool colors may vary, but they are always brownish/gray), fleece, safety eyes and stuffed with new poly fil.

Of course we shall be wearing our blackberry lip stains or our bright, pillar-box screaming red lipsticks with this look – along with a metric ton of eyeliner, pearls, layered chains (masses of them) or statement bib-style necklaces. Comfort with a raw edge. Wonderful. 🙂

By the way – if you are utterly allergic to any hint of floral patterns – as I was for many years, bearing the scars of a 1970’s flower-patterned childhood – you can still get the look by wearing one of these far more subtle Liberty bracelets or necklaces, as shown above, by Mavis and Frank. I can think of lots of people who wouldn’t necessarily wear a floral dress but would love these accessories…

Scarlet Liberty necklace by Mavis and Frank: $21

Scarlet Liberty necklace by Mavis and Frank: $21

Yours flowered-up biker-chickishly,

Miss Nightingale.


Cameo Role: BBC’s Emma & Cameo Fashion
October 4, 2009, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Accessories, Autumn, BBC, Costume Dramas, Emma, Etsy, Fall, Fashion, Fripperies, Jane Austen, Regency, Trinkets

I have just been watching the new BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma and pronounce it to be [horribly quoting from the wrong book, but never mind] “Tolerable“. Well that’s a little unkind, it doesn’t have anything bad about it, really, but neither is it particularly electrifying. Everyone is doing their turn and doing it well enough – it’s perfect Autumnal Sunday evening viewing, so we can’t complain. Eye-candy abounds in home decor, winsome peaches & cream complexions and well-fitting breeches scattered liberally about the scenery.

Watch a preview clip:

In my mind, Jane Austen adaptations are forever entwined with cameos in my mind. I have no idea why. Well, actually that’s a lie. When I was a little girl, I had a collected edition of Austen’s novels that had a large picture of a cameo on the front cover. Therefore, Austen = Cameo and Cameo = Austen in my easily-befuddled head. So there.

Cameos have a truly fascinating history as fashionable pieces of wearable art – I have always been attracted to their strikingly simple beauty yet decadently intricate appeal. My mother introduced them to me – we would spend hours looking in antique shop windows, gazing longingly at the images and wondering who they depicted and who wore them…

Victorian Hand Carved Shell Cameo

Victorian Hand Carved Shell Cameo: $515

Lit from Behind to show the clarity of carving

Lit from Behind to show up any hairline cracks

The following snippets of information are from Anna M. Miller’s book, Cameos Old & New – a brilliant resource for those wishing to further their knowledge on this subject.

  • Early Greek and Roman carvings featured images of gods and goddesses, themes from mythology, beautiful women and biblical events.
  • Many cameos through history depict living heroes or rulers.
  • In the Hellenistic era young women used cameos as charms to express desire. A woman could wear a cameo depicting a dancing Eros as a seductive invitation to love.
  • During the Renaissance, Pope Paul II was an avid cameo collector. According to history, this love ultimately led to his death. His excessive display of carved gems and stones on his fingers kept his hands so cold that he caught the chill that meant his death.
  • Cameos have been used on helmets and military accessories like breastplates and sword handles, on rings and other jewelry, and on vases, cups and dishes.
  • Women began collecting cameos to prove cultural status during the Elizabethan period. At the same time, tourist travels to the ruins of Pompeii were on the rise and women began collecting shell and lava cameos as souvenirs to remember their travel.
  • During the 18th century, men purchased carved gems to mark their prestige and culture.
  • Cameos enchanted Napoléon, who wore a cameo to his own wedding and founded a school in Paris to teach the art of cameo carving to young apprentices.
  • Not until the nineteenth century, when the popularity of shell cameos grew — reducing the use of hardstones or agate — did profiles become as popular a subject matter as they are today.
French Baroque Cameo Ca. 1820: £18,616...

French Baroque Cameo Ca. 1820: £18,616...

If you click on the above picture of the utterly jaw-dropping French Baroque cameo, you’ll be taken to a page where you may read more about the history of how cameos are made. Or you can order the cameo and buy me a house with the money left in your wallet. Alternatively – and perhaps a little more affordable for the rest of us – you may choose to peruse my cameo-inspired choices from various lovely Etsy sellers…

Cameo Role

Direct links to items shown:

Devani Weaver

Bean and the Sprout

Chocolate Creative


Bella Chic Designs

High Street Market

Cameo Role 2

Further links:

Tina Tarnoff

Briana Edelman Designs

Lissa Creates

Peterene Design

Essence of Gaia

Louise Black

In case you have been living in a cupboard, Louise Black is currently starring in the current series of Project Runway. She has long been one of my favourite Etsy designers and I lust after one of these corsets (though to be perfectly honest, my corset wearing days are likely over. Let’s face it. I’m likely to get more use of one of her gorgeous cuffs. But OH look at the corset… *le-sigh*

Louise Black Cameo Corset: $189.50

Louise Black Cameo Corset: $189.50

I do think the cameo dress in my above selection is a very wearable piece, though. For those of us less blessed in the leg department, one may choose to team it with leggings (even I have succumbed to leggings this season!) or extremely opaque tights and either cute ballet flats or knee-boots.

Victorian Cameo Dress by Devani Weaver: $165

Victorian Cameo Dress by Devani Weaver: $165

Another effortless wearable (and affordable!) piece that I didn’t have room for in my initial selection but still wanted to share with you, is this delightful Marie Antoinette Cameo Shirt by Thirty Three Degrees:

Marie Antoinette Shirt by Thirty Three Degrees: $22

Marie Antoinette Shirt by Thirty Three Degrees: $22

Finally, I just have to include this dinky little cat cameo cushion by Kerry Kate – I know I want one in my house!

Small Cat Silhouette Print Pillow by Kerry Kate: $22.50

Small Cat Silhouette Print Pillow by Kerry Kate: $22.50

Well, I think I have probably prattled on long enough for today, my dearies, so until next time…

Yours besottedly,

Miss Nightingale